Trailer and photo shoot – using the real past in memory of a friend

At the start of the year a family friend, considered an alternative granddad, passed away at a very respectable age. He’s known me since I was just a toddler and always been a close friend to the family. Last year saw him fall ill and in the New Year he passed away. In the following weeks my parents sorted through his possessions and presented me with a collection of his memories and keepsakes as a reminder.

The first box ironically contained school photographs of me through the years. Quite touching to see them amongst his personal possessions and photographs of his long passed family.

As I sorted through the two aged suitcases I began to see a side of his life I had never known. Aged in his nineties there were photographs from pre-War, during the war and times I would never know. Opening the suitcase and sifting through the pictures, newspaper clippings, discharge papers, wartime cards and notes was quite emotional.

It inspired me to honour my friend in the only way I personally can.

I thought of The Magdon story and how I have told my children I learned of my great grandfather Archy’s adventures by being given his old diary. What better way to personify that discovery than in a short trailer/scene. I would love to film it properly as a short scene using these things as props but I am getting way ahead of myself.

So I made my excuses and decided to make a trailer that could use the memories of my family friend and make them feel like Archy’s. It seemed right. It seemed like the sort of thing that fits with the way I deal with people and things.

There were, of course, some problems with that. I don’t want to glorify on his past, it is after all his. There was a lot of dressing the things within the suitcase so to the unknowing eye it was just a collection of props but for me and my family, as we watch, we will see the clues of the past and smile inside.

As I say, this fifty-odd second snippet would be my opening scene, my introduction to the past and Archy’s life. If I could film it from start to finish the suitcase would be delivered and we would find Archy’s great grandson (which according to my children who still believe my lies would be ME!). Having been given the mysterious case we would see me/the main character take it into the house and with curious hands open it and sift through the contents. From there the diary would be found and we would be set upon the path to our adventure.

Of course, I am no director, I don’t even have a camera worthy of filming so that will have to remain one of my crazy ideas or perhaps a storyboard for drawing tonight as I drink wine and raise a toast in memory.

It also reminds me how distorted you can make the world. How your imagination can change things and the false imagined adventures can appear all too real. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but there is also caution to be had not to forget the truth amongst the imagined.

Back to the photo shoot and trailer.

With the suitcase dressed and prepped I took to taking some pictures to use as wallpapers and media images (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and the likes). Once that was done my creative head got rolling and I gave a guided tour of “discovering” the contents of the suitcase in a soft way.

It may be nothing. It may not even be my best piece of work as a trailer but as I have always said I act on a whim. When an idea takes hold I obsess over it and do what I can to get it done with the means that I have. For today that was a basic camera (not even an SLR as I can’t afford one of those). Clicking the red record button and doing my best to keep it steady.

I’m sure you can all see my intention, the fact that my dreams seriously outstrip my ability and capability but my actions are filled with best intentions.

The fact I could use the real life past of a friend made it all the more right for me to do.

The spooky thing though was when I found my daughter’s name on paperwork that related to my friend’s relative (possibly wife who I never had the chance to meet). Seeing her wartime Identity Card with my daughter’s name scribbled on the page sent a cold shiver down my spine. It’s funny how the past unknown can elicit a reaction and connect things decades apart.

And that is the essence of The Magdon story………..stories to connect generations, stories to elicit that sense of forgotten adventure and encourage a connection to the past from the future.

Hopefully, I have done his memory justice and the trailer creates the atmosphere and sense I want it to. You never know, perhaps one day I will be able to complete the project and get the pictures I see in my head out onto a silver (or LCD) screen.

Until then you can;t stop me creating. I excuse my madness in my desire to release my imagination and inspire my own children.

(WT) The Magdon Genereations – Villain

Coming up with a new character for the modern story. Let me explain that my children BELIEVE that Archy’s story is me retelling real events. To that end, I have been forced to get their permission to write a new made-up story. With that permission granted I have officially started tapping on the keyboard occasionally in creating my first draft.

Today on my way home from work I was stuck in traffic so my mind began to wander.

I need my villain – I need the new face and representation of the Veks and want him to be sinister and have that particularly evil look to him.

So, sitting down I tried writing my introduction to this character even though he had no name.

It took me an hour and a half to write 1,900 words of first-draft which introduces “villain”.

As I wrote I could hide his appearance beneath a new, more modern, version of the Veks mask (not giving that away just yet). I literally sat there and designed a whole new look in my head – it’s times like these that I wish I could draw. That way I could get my ideas into a visual form. Heck, I would even settle for some sort of printer I could stick in my head and just print out what I’m thinking but that would be too easy. Instead, I have to stare at the blank screen with the flickering cursor as I try to translate my mental images into words so you, in turn, can see my mental images.

That sounded convoluted.

So as the kids come back from gymnastics/leisure centre evening commitments I have described him. Come up with a Bond-villain style look to the villain and just need a name. I literally sit there with the boys and we throw names out between us until finally, we have a hit.

(There were some funny suggestions by A, including Orkos and some other unpronounceable names).

We settle on VIKTOR FRANKLYN and he is to be the newest face of the Veks and he is set to be one nasty individual.

Even though I am trying to keep the Generations story as something new in The Magdon adventures I can link back to Archy’s adventures without relying on them. That way I am not short changing people by forcing them to go back and read my Origins Of The Magdon books but giving them teasers to entice but enough information to make Generations its own entity.

To that end, I have cemented Viktor’s bad-guyishness in a distinctly evil deed.

I’ve enjoyed writing out of sync tonight. I normally try to write in order of events (except when I have the end in mind where I will write my end and then lock the flew away and not read it until I am ready to join it to the main story. Obviously, I know what happens but I don’t then feed into it too much which allows me to manipulate the first version ending and get the best of story flow both ways).

Tonight I skipped forward a few chapters to get the introduction to Viktor right. I’m aware I am going to run two main story arcs within the book this time where Origins Of The Magdon has solely followed Archy. I want to give a sense of both sides, showing the (re)discovery for my new main characters but also the devotion of the Villain and The Magdon.

Anyway, I’m being deliberately vague so will leave it alone now and switch my frantically developing idea-brain to its own devices.

I’m sat here with my green Italian leather notebook casting ideas left right and centre…..I love it!

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Ads, posts, ideas and more

In light of my rather self-bashing previous post and the realisation, I lack the skill, expertise and connections to sell my books without the aid of an agency clever-bod I decided to try some new avenues and see what happens.

In the first stage, I contacted Amazon to ask why they have not got the option to make my eBook for Book 1 (Origins Of The Magdon: Vercovicium) FREE to purchase. On al other platforms I have made the book free but could not for the life of me get Amazon to price match. Several months of emailing and querying got me nowhere so I got in touch on live chat and eventually, 48 hours later, the book appeared free on Amazon…..at last.

So then to spread the word. I managed a few Ad campaigns – Facebook, Instagram and Goodreads. So far neither have really spiked any sort of massive increase in downloads, just steady figures all the same both in and out of Ads. The Goodreads one seems more accountable, more able to see a Cost Per Click return and revenue. Again though not massively amazing in the figures department.

I have also started pre-planning Twitter posts (using Tiny Torch at the moment) which lets me be a bit more on the ball with my Twitter posting.

The biggest change and plan ahead is free-booking – my method will be covered in a future post as it is a work in progress and I will have more ability to say if it worked or not!

Aside from the new attempts at marketing I have had a great time out and about. Work has been demanding as ever but I had a lovely day in the Peak District with my to boys which worked wonders to clear my head.

As I have scanned through my writing and gone through some edits of Book 4 pre-summer release I can see where my head has been whilst writing. The latter chapters, whilst emotional, were quite sad. Sadder in many respects than they needed to be as I had hoped for the emotional “impact” when I finally brought Archy’s story to a close at the end of the final book in the series.

Looking back I think it was clear to see I had forgotten the way your subconscious affects your writing. Having had a recent family loss I’m all for “carry on and keep normal” when it comes to emotional adventures. Clearly, the impact I have decided to bury down has manifested on the page and made the ending a little too sombre. With a full edit in swing, I had to tone down the sadness and emotional impact for the fourth book. But in essence, it was nice to see I still have a human side, even if it does largely survive as a suppressed aspect of me!

Back to the walk, it was again another representation of me and my whimsical nature. There we were (three explorers aged 33, 8 and 6) stood on the Pennine Pass faced with a choice…..stick to the common path or explore a less used path and deviate. What did we do? Deviate of course and some two and a half hours later finally we reach the peak. Scrambling across water, rocks, landslide debris and such like the boys loved every minutes. I feared it was just to humour me but apparently, as we neared the car after 9 miles and four-and-a-half hours both of them asked if we could do another mountain!

And there lies my motivation. These boys are the reason I have put my “ass on the line” and dared to self-publish. If it wasn’t for them I would have lots of unfinished manuscripts gathering e-dust in forgotten hard drives on lost laptops (much like some stories I wrote over the years but never did anything with).

So really, today has been a time of self-reflection and acting to address my shortcomings in the arena of PR and marketing. Standing on the mountaintop with nothing but my boys with me there was nothing to disturb me, sod the demands, forget the niggles and distractions and just enjoy. Sometimes I wish I could spend my whole life in those sorts of moments.

So, in conclusion, I will bore you all with images of mountains, smiling me and my motivation…..the boys!

I’m blindly bumbling along!

I keep coming back to the fact that advertising/publicising myself is not my best skill. Yeah, sure I can talk the talk when the opportunity arises, but I don’t seem to have the right connections or in-roads to get myself out there. I really do feel I am letting the stories/books down in that sense and it really does frustrate me.

This is where the duality of my life comes into conflict. I juggle my work and home life with very distinct separations of personality traits. As for the author work, that rests squarely in the “home” category, and I often suffer that guilty feeling when I spend my free time pouring into the laptop churning through reams and reams of ideas for books and stories. To that end, I try to let my work on extra stuff beyond the writing and editing impact as little as possible on family time. As you’ve probably noticed, I am very focused on family time!

I flit between different avenues of advertising, some free, some low-end paid. I’ve toyed with Facebook Post Boosts – perfect for getting people to look at a post but pants for sales or going beyond the post. I’ve tried a Facebook Ad or two, again not a great result. I’ve just submitted a Goodreads Ad so will see how that goes.

Again I am just playing at it. I may be deluded, and my writing may be utter poo, but the feedback I have had is good. To that end, I have lots of faith that the story, especially The Magdon Series, has some legs. I just seem incapable of actually attaching the legs and getting them to run. I have made some approaches to PR agencies, but relative to cost is the fact a lot of them brush me off with a half-ass reply which doesn’t instil me with any confidence in what they do.

I’m all for trying to show my creative side, but in reality, I have to look at it all and ask who cares? Who actually invests in the time I pour into the pages, the posts, the pictures and the attempts to make waves in the big world?

It doesn’t matter really. I know I’m not some amazingly famous person to turn to in times of need for escape from reality. I’m one in hundreds/thousands of others, all equally proud of their creations and equally as determined to get out there.

That said though it won’t stop me.

If just two people read a blog post so be it. If a dozen people read the books, then that’s a dozen people who have invested in my world. I’ve stolen a few hours of their time, and hopefully they’ve enjoyed what I’ve given them in return.

But for now I will continue to fill my time in a dreamy land of belief in myself. I can wander the streets with excuses of “it’s for the book” and take random pictures to better help me visualise where I am going with my adventures. You never know, one day, it may all be worth this effort and the constant roller coaster of self-doubt.

Hell, it would be interesting to see who actually reads these posts and those who just click on it out of some sense of “feeling they have to”.

Again, what does it matter I’m out there, my stories are out there and perhaps one day they will grow legs enough and even wings to fly!

Until then the journey along the way is fun enough.

 

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Time waits for no man – grasp the opportunity and run with it.

 

Writer Wednesday: Tobey Alexander

An excellent interview about lil’ old me!

Merryn Books

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On Wednesdays on social media, people use the hashtag #WriterWednesday to chat about all things author, book and writing, including authors promoting their own work. As we love to support self-published authors, we thought we’d join in and we will be featuring a UK self-published author every Wednesday on the website. This week, we met Tobey Alexander to find out more…

Please tell us about yourself; when did you first become interested in writing?
Hello! I write under the pseudonym Tobey Alexander and am a full-time worker, husband, father of three “interesting” children and author by hobby. I am relatively new to the world of being self-published and am taking each day as it comes. In life, I just try to be a good dad, fun and able to be a little bit different than the norm.
As corny as it probably sounds I have always written. It has always…

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